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Arizona surpasses 10,000 known COVID-19 deaths, 600,000 cases as state again is worst in nation – The Arizona Republic

Arizona surpassed 10,000 known deaths and 600,000 cases of COVID-19 as the state once again is worst in the nation for new cases.

The nearly 100 new known deaths reported by the state on Saturday brought the known death count from COVID-19 to 10,036.

The state’s seven-day new-case average is back to the highest nationwide after being ranked second on Friday. Prior to that, Arizona ranked first for three days in a row, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker

Arizona’s rate of new positive cases over the last seven days was 126.4 cases per 100,000 people, per the CDC. The U.S. average for new cases is 68.7 cases per 100,000 people.

The state reported more than 17,200 new cases on Sunday, the highest number of new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day since the pandemic began, toppling the state’s previous record from Dec. 8 by nearly 5,000 cases. The record follows the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weekends. 

The state data dashboard shows 92% of all ICU beds and 93% of all inpatient beds in Arizona were in use Thursday, with 54% of ICU beds and 57% of non-ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Statewide, there were 138 ICU beds and 633 non-ICU beds available. 

Hospitals are experiencing a “surge within a surge,” with signs of worse weeks ahead. 

The number of patients hospitalized in Arizona for known or suspected COVID-19 cases was at 4,918 on Friday, slightly below the record-high of 4,920 on Wednesday. By comparison, the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in a single day during the summer surge was 3,517 on July 13.

The number of patients with suspected or known COVID-19 in ICUs across Arizona was at 1,121 on Friday, one below Thursday’s record-high 1,122. During the summer surge in mid-July, ICU beds in use for COVID-19 peaked at 970.

Arizonans with confirmed and suspected COVID-19 on ventilators tallied 791 on Friday, down from Thursday’s record-high 799. During the summer surge, July 16 was the peak day for ventilator use with 687 patients.

Thursday saw 2,109 emergency room visits for COVID-19, below the Dec. 29 single-day record of 2,341 positive or suspected COVID-19 patients seen in emergency departments across the state.

New cases in Arizona have eclipsed 5,000 for 26 of the past 31 days. Public health experts expect the virus to spread further because of personal contact over the holidays. 

Saturday’s 11,094 new cases brought the total number of identified COVID-19 cases in the state to 607,345. There were 98 additional deaths reported Saturday, bringing the known total of Arizonans who have died from the disease to 10,036, according to the data dashboard from the Arizona Department of Health Services. 

Percent positivity, which refers to the percent of COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are positive, has generally gone up, which many health experts consider an early indicator of a spike in illnesses.

Arizona’s positivity rate also continues to rise. Last week, it stood at 25%. For the week prior to that, it was 20%, according to the state, which has a unique way of calculating percent positivity. Percent positivity was at 4% for several weeks during August, September and October, according to state data.

Johns Hopkins University calculates Arizona’s seven-day moving average of percent positives at 20.2% as of Saturday. It shows the state’s percent positivity peaked at 24.2% last month.

A positivity rate of 5% is considered a good benchmark that the spread of the disease is under control.

Arizona began its first COVID-19 vaccinations for Phase 1A the week of Dec. 14, but the process has moved slowly. Health care workers, first responders, residents of long-term care facilities and other vulnerable populations will be prioritized in early phases, as will teachers, according to Gov. Doug Ducey. He said the vaccine will be free for anyone who needs it once it’s more widely available.

What to know about Saturday’s numbers

Reported cases in Arizona: 607,345.

Cases since the outbreak began increased by 11,094, or 1.86%, from Friday’s 596,251 identified cases. These daily cases are grouped by the date they are reported to the Arizona Department of Health Services, not by the date the tests were administered.

Cases by county: 374,740 in Maricopa, 80,642 in Pima, 32,960 in Pinal, 30,847 in Yuma, 15,027 in Mohave, 13,293 in Yavapai, 12,610 in Coconino, 12,370 in in Navajo, 8,737 in Cochise, 8,201 in Apache, 6,620 in Santa Cruz, 5,006 in Gila, 4,012 in Graham, 1,821 in La Paz and 459 in Greenlee, according to state numbers.

The rate of cases per 100,000 people is highest in Yuma County, followed by Santa Cruz, Apache and Navajo counties. The rate in Yuma County is 13,414 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison, the U.S. average rate as of Friday was 6,488 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC.

The Navajo Nation reported 24,776 cases and 866 confirmed deaths in total as of Friday. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Tribal leaders have implemented a stay-at-home lockdown and reinstated weekend curfews due to what officials have called the “uncontrolled spread” of COVID-19 in the tribe’s communities.

The Arizona Department of Corrections reported 7,823 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday, including 1,571 in Tucson, 1,530 in Yuma, 1,272 in Eyman and 911 in Douglas; 43,055 inmates statewide have been tested. A total of 2,007 prison staff members have self-reported testing positive, the department said. Twenty-six incarcerated people in Arizona have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with 15 additional deaths under investigation. 

Race/ethnicity is unknown for 23% of all COVID-19 cases statewide, but 34% of people are white, 29% are Hispanic or Latino, 5% are Native American, 3% are Black and 1% are Asian/Pacific Islander.

Of those who have tested positive in Arizona since the start of the pandemic, 15% were younger than 20, 45% were 20-44, 15% were 45-54, 12% were 55-64 and 13% were over age 65.

Laboratories have completed 3,044,506 diagnostic tests on unique individuals for COVID-19, 13.7% of which have come back positive. That number includes both PCR and antigen testing. The percentage of positive tests had increased since mid-May but began decreasing in July and held steady around 4% for several weeks, per the state. It was at 25% last week. The state numbers leave out data from labs that do not report electronically.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has started including probable cases as anyone with a positive antigen test, another type of test to determine current infection. Antigen tests (not related to antibody tests) are a newer type of COVID-19 diagnostic test that use a nasal swab or another fluid sample to test for current infection. Results are typically produced within 15 minutes. 

A positive antigen test result is considered very accurate, but there’s an increased chance of false-negative results, the Mayo Clinic says. Depending on the situation, Mayo Clinic officials say a doctor may recommend a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to confirm a negative antigen test result. 

Arizona as of Friday had the 14th highest overall case rate in the country since Jan. 21. Ahead of Arizona in cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began are North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Utah, Iowa, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Idaho, Arkansas, Kansas and Indiana, according to the CDC. 

Arizona’s infection rate is 8,032 cases per 100,000 people, the CDC said. The national average is 6,488 cases per 100,000 people, though the rates in states hard hit early on in the pandemic may be an undercount because of a lack of available testing in March and April. 

Reported deaths in Arizona: 10,036

Deaths by county: 5,767 in Maricopa, 1,219 in Pima, 573 in Yuma, 417 in Pinal, 389 in Mohave, 372 in Navajo, 275 in Yavapai, 259 in Apache, 233 in Coconino, 164 in Cochise, 154 in Gila, 116 in Santa Cruz, 55 in Graham, 39 in La Paz and four in Greenlee. 

People age 65 and older made up 7,445 of the 10,036 deaths, or 74%. Following that, 15% of deaths were in the 55-64 age group, 6% were 45-54 and 5% were 20-44 years old.

While race/ethnicity is unknown for 9% of deaths, 47% of those who died whose race/ethnicity were known were white, 28% were Hispanic or Latino, 9% were Native American, 3% were Black and 1% were Asian/Pacific Islander, the state data show.

The global death toll as of Saturday morning was 1,916,091 and the U.S. had the highest death count of any country in the world, at 368,947, according to Johns Hopkins University. Arizona’s death total of 10,036 deaths represents 2.7% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. as of Saturday. 

The COVID-19 death rate in Arizona was 133 per 100,000 people as of Friday, according to the CDC, putting it 13th in the country in a state ranking that separates New York City from New York state. The U.S. average is 109 deaths per 100,000 people, the CDC said. 

New York City has the highest death rate, at 302 deaths per 100,000 people. After that follows New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Connecticut, South Dakota, Mississippi, Louisiana, Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania. 

Reach the reporter at bfrank@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8529.  Follow her on Twitter @brieannafrank

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